Coach Chris Rengifo on Periodisation for High School Runners

January 26, 2013 0

By Chris Rengifo

Chris Rengifo is an Assistant Coach with Division 1, Eastern Kentucky University in the NCAA. He is from Toronto, Ontario.

Periodisation is hardly a new concept, but with new coaches coming into the sport and many different coaching styles there is a simple way of understanding the basics of the concept. There are generally four different phases that should be followed:  aerobic base, aerobic conditioning, aerobic power, and anaerobic tolerance. These four phases are key essentials to improving at getting better as a high school runner or at any level. Each phase stresses different systems of the body, from long tempo runs to shorter, faster intervals. They all help the runner understand their weakness and strengths.

The aerobic base-phase involves building up mileage. Many runners don’t know where to start with their mileage which can lead to a guessing game. It can sometimes be difficult to find a high school coach, who understands the nuances of this concept, but some coaches usually have the beginners run with more experienced runners and have them do about 15-20 minutes, so they can get use to running that long and eventually go longer. This amount of time is a great starting point for beginner runners and for the more advanced runners starting around 20-30 minutes is perfect for high school runners at the beginning of the season.

The main idea about starting with the aerobic base phase is to get some mileage underneath your legs. This phase is important because is dictates how strong you will run and how well your season can go. This helps strengthen your joints and tendons, increase the red blood cells, improve in muscles strength used in running and also teaches the body how to store fuel. Each runner is different, so it is best to plan around what really helps that runner. During this phase it is best to really get to know your body. Understanding what pace is good for you and how your body feels is very important. Your body will never feel one hundred percent each day, so it is wise to run based on how you feel on a particular day.

For most high school runners, the proper amount of weeks that should be achieved for this phase is 4-7 weeks. Why 4-7 weeks? Most runners start their aerobic base phase late in the summer after their track season. They usually have one to two weeks off before starting their cross-country season. I usually recommend 6 weeks as most start either the end of July, early August and can have it go into their high school season. The longer the base the wider the foundation is and the longer those gains stay with you after the base phase.

Example of an aerobic base-phase week:

Monday: Easy run
Tuesday: Easy run
Wednesday: Easy run
Thursday: OFF or Cross-Train
Friday: Easy run
Saturday: Easy run
Sunday: Long run

Next is the aerobic conditioning-phase. This phase can be intertwined with the aerobic base phase. The reason to separate them is so the runner can focus on one thing at a time. Keeping it simple for runners can be very important. The aerobic conditioning phase can be introduced with the aerobic base phase by inserting one or two longer, faster and steady yet controlled-pace runs into the mix during the week. These faster paced runs (more commonly known as tempo runs) are great for the runner. They help the runner build their strength and helps the heart pump more red blood cells throughout their body which benefits every runner. The more red blood cells that are produced the more oxygen that is delivered throughout the body.

Therefore the aerobic conditioning phase is another big part of a runner’s training at any level. For a high school runner, this is best done for about 3-4 weeks while also mixing it with the aerobic base phase. The aerobic conditioning phase has to work all year round no matter what type of distance runner you are dealing with, as this will help lengthen the athlete’s season. This is something I have incorporated with my runners all year round and it has been very beneficial in their training. Here is an example of a typical week during the aerobic conditioning-phase.

Example of an aerobic condition-phase week:

Monday: Easy run
Tuesday: Tempo run
Wednesday: Easy run
Thursday: Tempo run
Friday: Off or Cross-train
Saturday: Easy run
Sunday: Long run

The third phase is the aerobic power phase. This phase consists of increasing the ability to work the muscles to use more glucosamine and oxygen. The aerobic power phase is an essential part as it focuses on the type of workouts that is need for the runner to achieve their goal times. It’s important to include a lot of race pace intervals. Most runners are in competition phase when they are working on their aerobic power phases, so it is good to use races as a guide to know where they are and give a good idea on what coaches need to work on with the runners. The aerobic power phase starts to build up the lactic acid in the legs, thus it helps to really get your body to that level of how it will feel in a race.
Some coaches shy away from doing the strength work. It is important that they touch base with tempo runs or involve fartlek runs. A fartlek run is a continuous run that plays with the aerobic and anaerobic systems. Therefore, it can be used as a different type of interval but can be off the track.

High school runners that run and race year round from cross-country, indoor, to outdoor season are in this phase for significant portions of the year. Thus, a coach always needs to monitor the runners on whether they are fatigued or on the verge of burn out. Runners need their rest, so making sure they get this is important. Rest becomes very crucial when they are in the competition phase, as they would want to make sure they feel as recovered as possible. When in this phase of workouts, the runner should be close to 80-90% of their race pace. I normally like to spend 5-8 weeks on this, when in season. This is a range because you are able to mix it up with the runner on what works right for them and what doesn’t. Here is an example of a typical week during the aerobic-power phase.
Example of an aerobic power-phase week:

Monday: Easy run
Tuesday: Interval workout
Wednesday: Easy run
Thursday: Interval workout
Friday: Off or easy run
Saturday: Race or Tempo run or hill workout or fartlek
Sunday: Long run

The last phase is the anaerobic tolerance phase. This is the last phase that deals with the touch up of speed work that is trying to get your legs to turn over during that last part of the race. Anaerobic tolerance phase teaches your body how to handle lactic acid a little more. Fast repetitions between 60-90 seconds is maximal, thus lactic acid begins to build. Teaching the runner how to run at faster than race pace and try not to build as much lactic acid and be relaxed is crucial. It is very important to help them understand that being relaxed and not tying up helps the runner; thinking long-term about their career. The time that should be spent on this is about 4-6 weeks. The reason for this is because you are just getting close to the big race that the runner is preparing for. Here is an example of a typical week during the anaerobic tolerance-phase.

Example of an anaerobic tolerance-phase week:

Monday: Easy run or speed work
Tuesday: Interval workout
Wednesday: Easy run
Thursday: Interval workout
Friday: Easy run
Saturday: Race
Sunday: Long run

In conclusion, I believe that incorporating these four phases can really help each runner improve and succeed in their respected events. Making sure runners do their part in working and listening to the coach is important along with the little things; such as eating right, sleeping eight hours, doing work to strengthen the body’s core, and of course most importantly, there is the running. The above will play a big role to the success of the runner, if they follow the training schedule. Each runner will get stronger and faster if done everything correctly.

 

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